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Tampa Bay Bucs wrap up draft with versatile football players

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The Tampa Bay Bucs think they drafted a bit of versaltility on the third day of the draft Sunday.

The Bucs aren’t quite sure what to do with their draftees at this point. Ryan Smith has played corner, but the team sees him as a safety. Caleb Benenoch could end up at guard or tackle. Even fullback Dan Vitale has played tight end. The team’s other draftee, Devonte Bond, will probably end up as Sam linebacker.

“Ryan Smith [out of] North Carolina Central, he’s fast,”. He’s a low 4.4 [40-yard dash] guy,”said general manager Jason Licht. “We’ve had him timed as high as 4.3. He’s an aggressive guy. He’ll hit you. He’s got a great mentality. He’s a super kid. He’s played safety and corner there. We see him as possibly being a safety.

“We drafted him for his ability there in the secondary. We didn’t draft a kick returner, so don’t worry, we weren’t going to draft a long snapper and a holder too – round out the special teams in this draft. But he’s got value back there in the secondary. He’s got a lot of upside.”

The team said it would decide whether to play Benenoch, a native of Nigera, at guard or tackle.

“It will be determined,” Licht said. “We think that he’s got value at both [positions]. I’ll let Dirk answer that. We’ve been talking about it. It’s a good thing when you’re fighting over where to play him – we’re not ‘fighting’ over it –but where you’re wrestling with that in your head, where to put him first. But we’ll put him somewhere.”

Bond will probably have to make his mark on special teams early in his career.

Devante is heavy-handed, athletic, great kid. They’re all really good kids,” Licht said. “They’re all athletic. I think they all have got a really good chance of being Buccaneers for a while.”

As for Vitale, the team likes his toughness.

“He can catch the ball, he’s played tight end [at Northwestern]. He’s kind of a hybrid guy, where he can do that and I know he’s going to be a really good special teamer and that’s hard to find – a fullback that can play special teams.”

 The Bucs did not trade quarterback Mike Glennon. They didn’t draft a defensive tackle or a wide receiver. The Bucs did, however, pick four guys from defense.

“We needed to,” said Bucs coach Dirk Koetter. “You guys know that. We needed to draft some defensive players. It’s been two years and only one pick in the prior two years. We needed to draft some players on defense so between a cover guy, a pass rusher, I think Jason mentioned we’re going to start Smith out as a safety – he’s played two years at safety and two years at corner.

“And of course, getting Devante Bond as a linebacker – I mean, even though we added Daryl Smith in the offseason, our linebacker depth is thin and Devante has played a lot of football at Oklahoma and that’s another good guy. Those are the type of guys that also bolster your special teams at the same time. So to add those guys on defense is something that we needed to do.”

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Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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